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"I’ve learnt so much and gained so many new skills."

Sejal joined the Royal Voluntary Service Café in Leicester Royal Infirmary over 11 years ago, inspired by her mum who had also volunteered at the hospital.

Sejal has learning disabilities and was nervous to start the new role but has since embraced the different elements of retail volunteering and has become a vital member of the team who is relied on for her unique skills and wholehearted support. Just some of Sejal’s unique skills include being multilingual, tech-savvy and having a brilliant memory that comes in handy when helping café customers.

Passionate about the many benefits of volunteering, Sejal is eager to inspire more people, particularly others with disabilities, to give volunteering a try and Play Their Part.

"Every day is different when you’re volunteering. Every day you get different volunteers and different customers. Sometimes we get new volunteers and I’ll teach them how to use the till because I’m good at computers. But there are also some regular customers like the doctors and nurses at the hospital, who I know now, and talk to all the time. You get friendly with them and get to know what hot drinks they like to order, which is nice.

"I’ve learnt so much and gained so many new skills, and I’ve built my confidence. The café managers have helped me to do things I wouldn’t normally do if I weren’t volunteering, like using a till, scanning in food deliveries and discounting stock. Everyone is lovely and they understand my disabilities, and they know that I just need showing how to do something and then I’ll be able to do it. I also make teas and coffees and take them to customers’ tables and have a chat. Being in hospital can be difficult for people, and it was really rewarding when I recently had the chance to speak Gujarati to help a customer whose first language isn’t English. 

"I do three days a week in the café and sometimes an extra day on a Saturday, I come in whenever they need me! I like that it gets me out of the house and that there’s people I can talk to. I don’t like to be stuck in the house because of my disability, I like to be doing something.

"To anyone with a learning difficulty or disability, I would say you should definitely volunteer. It builds your self-confidence and you feel like you’re giving something back. I’ve also made loads of friends and some really close friends who I meet up with outside of volunteering.

"At first you might be nervous but Royal Voluntary Service can help with anything you can’t do, and they understand your needs. Help and support is there. We all have unique skills that we bring to the team. Even if it takes us longer or we need additional help, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have the opportunity to help the world.

"Volunteering helps you to build your skills up, you learn to do things you didn’t know you could do. I didn’t know I could make a good tea and coffee! It also helps your self esteem and you meet people who you might not normally talk to. It’s made me realise that I can do things. We can do as much as anybody else, even if it takes us longer, we shouldn’t give up.

"I’m thankful to Royal Voluntary Service for the opportunity to volunteer with a disability, volunteering makes a big difference with how you feel about yourself."

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